This would not appear to be the last move the Cubs will make before the single trading deadline of July 31, which is now just 15 days away. As Theo Epstein said:
Theo Epstein, on the one trade deadline this year: “You have to anticipate where you might be vulnerable to an injury and try to build that depth up in advance…knowing there is no escape valve in August. You really have to do all your work this month.”
For the moment, Maldonado will replace Willson Contreras on the active roster:
Willson going to IL with a strain of the arch muscle on his right foot. MRI revealed a strain. Medical staff said playing on it could make it worse. Don't expect it to be longer than 10 days.— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) July 16, 2019
Let’s hope that’s the case. (Also, the IL placement is retroactive to Sunday, since Willson last played Saturday.)
Maldonado, who will replace Montgomery on the 40-man roster (thus, no further 40-man move is needed), was someone the Cubs had targeted last offseason. He signed with the Royals because he figured he’d get more playing time there. Now he’s a backup on a contending team. Maldonado is an excellent defender who hits, basically, like a backup catcher. Also, there’s very little money difference between the two contracts. Maldonado’s 2019 deal is for $2.5 million. Montgomery’s is for $2.44 million, so the difference is $60,000, or less than $30,000 pro-rated for the amount of season that’s left.
When Contreras returns, there will have to be some decisions made. Can the Cubs go with three catchers throughout August? Will Contreras play some outfield when he returns?
The Cubs have been looking for an extra bat — seriously, it’s time to just cut the losses with Daniel Descalso, who has now played once (a PH strikeout July 12) in the Cubs’ last nine games, and possibly some lefthanded relief help.
Does the presence of Maldonado mean that Victor Caratini is now available by trade? Caratini’s got a good bat and is a decent defender and could certainly start for quite a few teams. He and Contreras made up one of the best (if not the best) catching tandems in the major leagues. He could help bring back a quality bat or reliever. On the other hand, Maldonado is a free agent after 2019 and turns 33 next month. It doesn’t seem likely the Cubs are looking to keep him beyond the end of this season.
So what’s next for Theo & Co.? Would you trade Caratini (and perhaps others) to get a quality bat?
For now, Maldonado and Alec Mills (who is being recalled from Iowa to start Tuesday) will replace Contreras and Montgomery on the active roster. But don’t be surprised if that 25-man roster has more changes coming up soon.
Lastly, I want to wish Mike Montgomery all the best in Kansas City. He returns to the team that made him a No. 1 pick (36th overall in 2008, the same round the Cubs took Andrew Cashner) and will get his wish to be a rotation starter.
And he, and we, will always have this: